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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pacific-EU trade relations on a knife edge

The negotiations for the EU - Pacific islands Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) are likely to be terminated, if no tangible improvement is made in the quality of the relations between the two parties before September, it is stated in a letter sent at the beginning of June 2013 to the EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht by the Pacific’s lead spokesperson on the Economic Partnership Agreement talks, Tonga’s Minister for Commerce, Viliame Uasike Latu.
"All the member countries are very disappointed with the European Union, especially the failure to respond to some of the outstanding issues that the Pacific trade ministers have raised in the past ten years," Latu told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat. "As a member country, we think we have been mistreated by the EC, especially when it comes to fisheries issues," he added.
Minister Latu has accused Europe of pursing its own interests and trying to turn the Economic Partnership Agreement into a Fisheries Treaty which would rewrite Pacific laws and undermine country’s sovereignty.

In 2009, Papua New Guinea (PNG) broke with its neighbours to sign an interim Economic Partnership Agreement. It gives fish caught in PNG waters duty free and quota free access to the European market ."What the Pacific want to safeguard is what was granted [in] the interim agreement, where both Fiji and PNG have signed," Latu claimed. Another key Pacific demand is to extend the provisions allowed for PNG tuna to other species such as sword fish and crustaceans.

Pacific Trade ministers are so disappointed with Europe’s failure respond to their requests that they are ready to take the extraordinary step of walking away from the talks. "All the neighbouring countries are serious about pulling out. We have been trying for a long time. Ten years is a long time for us and we are serious about that," minister Latu concluded.